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First Tuesdays -- The Big Disconnect: Spending Policies, School Priorities, and Student Achievement

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Noon-1:30 p.m. ET

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Audio Recording


Russlynn Ali

Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, is responsible for ensuring that schools, colleges, and universities receiving federal funding do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, disability, or age. Previously, Ali was a vice president of the Education Trust in Washington, D.C., and the founding executive director of the Education Trust–West in Oakland, California. Ali, who has been a teacher, attorney, and law professor, was assistant director of policy and research at the Broad Foundation and chief of staff to the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education.

Kevin Finneran

Kevin Finneran is editor-in-chief of Issues in Science and Technology, the quarterly policy journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

Michael Petrilli

Michael Petrilli is vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where he oversees its research projects and publications. He is also a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, executive editor of Education Next, and coauthor of No Child Left Behind: A Primer. A former associate assistant deputy secretary of education in the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Petrilli was vice president of community partnerships at K12, an Internet education company, and a teacher at the Joy Outdoor Education Center in Ohio.

Marguerite Roza

Marguerite Roza (moderator), author of Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? (Urban Institute Press), is on leave as a senior scholar at the Center on Reinventing Public Education and as a research associate professor at the University of Washington's College of Education. She is currently the senior data and economic adviser at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Her research focuses on education spending and productivity, digging deeply into records to follow resources as they are deployed across schools, classrooms, and students. She has been a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and taught thermodynamics at the Naval Nuclear Power School.

Noah Wepman

Noah Wepman is the founder of NEW Education Advisors, a consulting firm providing analysis and strategic support on education finance, management, and policy initiatives to national nonprofits, foundations, and school districts. Previously, Wepman was D.C. Public Schools' chief financial officer, serving as principal financial adviser to the chancellor and overseeing all financial operations. He has also worked as the education program manager for the District's city administrator and advised the mayor and city administrator on education finance policy and implementation of the D.C. Public Education Reform Act.

Imagine a high school that spends $328 per student for math courses and $1,348 per cheerleader for cheerleading activities. Or a school where the average per-student cost of offering ceramics was $1,608; cosmetology, $1,997; and such core subjects as science, $739.

These schools are not anomalies. Marguerite Roza and colleagues at the Center on Reinventing Public Education regularly found a much greater per-pupil investment in sports and electives than in core subjects. They also found -- in Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Cincinnati, Houston, Seattle, and many other cities -- that teacher salaries average $1,000 to $5,000 higher in schools with fewer poor students than in the highest-poverty schools in the same district.

After collecting revenues from all taxpayers, how are these all too common scenarios possible or justifiable? What happens to students and public trust when districts don't track or report detailed spending for every school? Who wins and loses when school officials use outmoded resource allocation policies? And how can a district's internal policies be updated and aligned with the public's priorities? Join the discussion and debate as a panel of experts follows the twisted trail of school-level funding.


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